May 3rd, 2008.
4:45 pm CT.
There was a different smell in the air today. The faint scent of Seabond and urine was overrun by the scent of excitement. The squeaking walkers seemed to me moving faster, and the place felt less dismal. Then I remembered what day it was.
Kentucky Derby CXXXIV Day at the nursing home.
As I entered my workplace, I had been hearing the toothless chatter of the elderly all week:
"I'll bet my bedpan that Big Brown takes the tape today!"
"Big Brown? He's racing from gate 20. A horse hasn't won in gate 20 since 1929. I should know. I was there!"
"What the hell is that filly racing for? Women belong in the kitchen!"
"Who stole my blanket?!"
Quickly, to avoid any blankety-conflicts, I quickly went to see my favorite resident, Ray. Ray was diagnosed with CVS and Degenerative Disc Disease, as well as an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. But he still managed to baffle me with Horseracing trivia, and was able to name the Derby winners, and their jockeys, in order from 1924.
"Hey, Brad. You excited for the Derby today?"
"You know it!" I lied. "Who do you have winning today?"
"I like Big Brown. I think Kent Desormeaux will win his third derby today. How about you?"
For the first time in my life, I actually wondered who would win the 134th Kentucky Derby. I hadn't watched much coverage, but I knew Big Brown was the favorite. I knew Eight Belles was a woman, there was a sweet fire horse named Pyro, and there Recapturetheglory, which was Microsoft Word's Spell-check nightmare. But after rooting for the Giants in the Super Bowl, the Rockies in the World Series, and had Michigan State winning my NCAA Tourney Brackett, I knew who I would root for.
"I'll bet you a lobster dinner that Eight Belles wins the race today, Raymond. But she not only wins today, but I'll bet you another lobster dinner today that she wins the Preakness as well."
"A bet? I haven't bet on a horserace since Nam. I get to stay up as late as I like eating pudding if Big Brown wins."
Coincidentally, and for the reader's sake, it was now 5:00 CT. Time for the race to start.
"Hey, Warren. The bet is still on, right?"
"You bet, Raymond."
As I watched NBC, Big Brown took the lead and never looked back, beating Eight Belles by 4 3/4 lengths.Meh. I thought to myself. No big deal. Ray won't remember. And even if he does, you still have a chance Eight Belles winning the Preakness.
Then, to my horror, I watched Eight Belles collapse on the track, breaking her front ankles, and being euthanized.
"Well, Wally, that's a cotton-picking shame." Ray said. "So, when do I get my lobster?"
"Tomorrow," I said.
But "tomorrow" never happened. And neither did the next day, or the next day. Raymond, in his Alzhiemic splendor, has not forgotten about our lobster bet, even one week later. And today, at 4:30, we are going to Red Lobster, where he will rub butter on his lobster and his victory in my face.